Dawn of the Dead (George Romero, 1978)

Dawn of the Dead (George Romero, 1978)

Dawn of the Dead (George Romero, 1978) The Background:

It’s probably safe to say that you can’t call yourself a true zombie fan until you’ve seen Dawn of the Dead. Directed in 1978 by George A. Romero, Dawn of the Dead is the long-awaited sequel to Romero’s wildly successful Night of the Living Dead (1968) and proof of the impact that one man’s vision can have on an industry.

Romero’s zombie films not only defined the genre, but also packed rich social commentary. Dawn of the Dead examines American violence and consumerism, where its predecessor touched more on things like Cold War politics and racism. But at its heart, Dawn of the Dead is a double-decker sandwich of ooey-gooey zombie goodness that even the mildest horror fans will love and appreciate.

Dawn of the Dead features top notch performances by all of its cast members, but the SWAT team duo of Scott Reiniger and Ken Foree remain among the best. In fact, few zombie movies ever come close to the high level of acting this film maintains throughout its entirety.

If that’s not enough to sell you, the makeup work done in this film by Tom Savini made him a household name in the horror community. Why? Because it’s that damn good. And ultimately, the makeup effects are only overshadowed by Dawn of the Dead’s awesome soundtrack, which is the result of a collaboration between Goblin and Dario Argento — both legends in their own right.

The Breakdown:

Dawn of the Dead

Dawn of the Dead

Despite being released ten years apart, Dawn of the Dead takes place only hours after Night of the Living Dead. In the same vein as the original, anyone who dies comes back to life as a flesh-eating zombie…those are the rules. Except the epidemic has now reached a nearly unstoppable rate and the United States seems to be in complete chaos.

The film opens at the WGON television studio in Philadelphia where, amongst the commotion, we meet a traffic reporter and his girlfriend— both of whom are planning to make a break for Canada in the studio’s helicopter at 9:00pm that night.

Meanwhile, somewhere else in the city, a SWAT team is raiding an apartment complex where the residents have refused to turn over their dead friends and family to the National Guard. In the midst of the raid, two SWAT members have a chance encounter in the basement, where they discuss the option of giving up and getting the hell out of the city. Turns out that one of them is friends with the traffic reporter at the TV station.

Come 9:00, the fearsome foursome make their way north in the helicopter stopping only to refuel until they come across an abandoned shopping mall. The group quickly decide to nix the Canada plan and set up shop inside the mall. After all, it has everything they could ever possibly need or want, right?

I won’t give anything away, but if zombie movies have taught me anything over the years, it’s this: There’s no such thing as a safe place and there’s no maintaining the status quo. Sooner or later, either the zombies find a way in or other people do.

The Conclusion:

Dawn of the Dead

Dawn of the Dead

I could sit here all day and tell you how good Dawn of the Dead is, because it’s true. Not only has it stood the test of time, but it remains one of the greatest and most important horror films ever made. Personally, I have no doubt that every zombie flick post-1978 was influenced by this film in some way or another.

In addition to being a great film, Dawn of the Dead is also a successful sequel — which is a hell of a lot easier said than done. But in the end, this movie pulls its own weight and is a standalone film, despite having its roots in Night of the Living Dead.

At any rate, if you haven’t seen this film, you’re missing out in a big way. It belongs to a small collection of horror movies that are not only essential viewing, but showcase the genre for how great it can truly be. Dawn of the Dead is a rare horror movie that not only gives you something to think about, but also scares the living piss out of you…and makes you like it.

Watch ‘Dawn of the Dead’ below:

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Written by: Joe Tallman